Olivia Drake

Assistant to the Dean of Admission Sprints Between Budgeting Department and Triathlons

Joan Adams, assistant to the dean of admission, stands outside the Office of Admission.
Posted 07/13/05
Q: Joan, you are the assistant to the Dean of Admission. How long have you been in the Office of Admission?

A: I started working in the office of admission in January of 2000.

Q: And what were you doing before that?

A: I was hired in August of 1999 and started my Wesleyan career in the registrar’s office.

Q: What do you like most about working here after these five years?

A: There are many things that I love about working at Wesleyan. First and foremost, I truly enjoy working with the office of admission staff. To me this group is like my extended family. We all get along well and work together as a team toward our common strategic goal of attracting and retaining the best students for Wesleyan. Working at Wesleyan provides so many benefits. Since I am a health and fitness nut, I appreciate the opportunity to utilize Freeman Athletic Center nearly every day. The new addition is just incredible and such an added bonus.

Q: Who do you primarily work with in the office?

A: I mostly assist Nancy Meislahn, dean of admission and financial aid. We work well as a productive team and after four years together operate in sync setting priorities and accomplishing as much as possible. As her assistant I manage her calendar, coordinate domestic and international travel, prepare correspondence and documents, and basically try to stay one step ahead of her which is a major challenge!

I also assist and support Greg Pyke, senior associate dean, with travel planning and statistical reporting for the University common data set and college guidebooks. Greg and I also work together to coordinate the Wesleyan High School Scholars Program which permits outstanding juniors and seniors from area high schools to take one course per semester.

Q: What else do you do?

A: Along with supporting Nancy and Greg I oversee the admission office budget and manage the prospects and applicants who have alumni relations or other special interests. Every day is unique with many challenges. I don’t personally meet with students and parents on a daily basis but enjoy working at the registration table during our open houses in the fall and WesFest in the spring. I also work with University Relations to schedule special tours and interviews for alumni relatives.

Q: What is the busiest time of the year for you and why?

A: It is impossible to pick a time that we aren’t busy in admission. The summer months are very hectic and exciting with prospective students and their parents visiting campus; the deans travel extensively through the fall and January 1st is our application deadline for regular admission. November through April is the busiest time for me personally. Summer marks the end of the cycle as the Class of 2009 matriculates in August, but we’ve already begun to recruit the Class of 2010!

Q: What were you doing before? Are you a Connecticut native?

A: I grew up in Lake Placid and Greenwich, New York, and received an associate’s degree in travel administration from Bay Path College and a bachelor’s of science degree in management from Central Connecticut State University. I have lived in Massachusetts, California and Florida working a variety of jobs in sales, for example contract office furniture and food service, and more recently in human resources and benefits administration so my background is very diverse to say the least.

Q: Are you involved in any organizations or volunteer services?

A: Last winter I volunteered with the “Mom’s Program” through New Britain General Hospital. The program trains young mothers in parenting classes and while they are in class the volunteers care for their children, mostly infants. Prior to the Mom’s Program I volunteered on the hospice unit at Middlesex Hospital.
I tend to volunteer during the winter months as I spend most of my free time in the summer months training for sprint triathlons.

Q: What’s involved in a triathlon?

A: The sprint level tri’s are usually a half mile swim, 10 to14 miles on a bike and 5k run in length. The swim segment was most intimidating to me so I joined a Masters Swim group in September, thanks to Tom DiMauro in IT, and enjoyed swimming with an over-40 group through the winter. It was lots of fun.

Q: I doubt many people will believe you’re over 40 when they see the photo with your profile. So, is there anyone in your life worth mentioning?

A: Next month I am thrilled to be celebrating six years with my partner, Mary. She is the one who puts that smile on my face. My 83-year-old mom, Virginia lives in New Hampshire with her companion, Jim and they travel between New Hampshire and Florida each year. I have a sister, Cindy, who lives in Florida and brother, Greg and wife Nancy living at Ballston Lake, New York – and four nieces, two nephews and a great niece on the way!

Q: What are your other hobbies and interests?

A: Mary and I spend as much time as we can working in our yard and enjoying time with our family and friends. We love to travel and have taken several trips abroad and have traveled extensively in the US.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

World Premiere of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange at Wesleyan

Wesleyan has partnered with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange for several fall events.
Posted 07/13/05
For the past three years, the Center for the Arts and Wesleyan faculty have partnered with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange to explore the ethical and social repercussions of genetic research.

The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, led by MacArthur Fellow Liz Lerman, has been creating dance works that are metaphorical and powerfully visceral about the issues of the time.

The Wesleyan-Dance Exchange partnership has resulted in Wesleyan serving as a lead commissioner of “Ferocious Beauty: Genome”, which will premiere at the CFA on February 3, 2006, before touring major performing arts centers across the country.

The partnership has also resulted in the most comprehensive residency ever undertaken by a dance company at Wesleyan or in Middletown, with Dance Exchange members working throughout the fall semester with both science and dance students as well as community members at the Green Street Arts Center.

The following Dance Exchange events are scheduled:

  • “The Making of ‘Ferocious Beauty: Genome’” will take place at 8 p.m. September 20 in the CFA’s cinema. Enjoy an evening with Liz Lerman and Kathy Hudson, director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University. Admission is free.

    Lerman will discuss her use of the dance medium to explore the meaning and potential of new genetic science research. Hudson will provide an update on the public policy issues raised by recent advances. Both women will share their insights into the crossing of boundaries between art and science and their growing understanding of creativity and inquiry in both fields.

  • “Challenging Nature: Biotechnology in a Spiritual World” will take place at 8 p.m. October 11 in the CFA’s cinema. Attend a lecture by Lee M. Silver, professor of molecular biology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Admission is free.

    Silver, author of “Challenging Nature: Biotechnology in a Spiritual World” published by Ecco Press, will examine Catholic, Protestant, post-Christian and Eastern spirituality’s responses to the advances of biotechnology and predict how these arguments will affect future scientific research.

  • The Double Helix: Law and Science Co-constructing Race” will take place at 8 p.m. November 10 in the CFA’s cinema. Attend a talk by Pilar Ossario, assistant professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin. Admission is free.

    Ossario’s talk will explore the ways in which the law and guidelines mandating inclusion have had the effect of re-animating a very simple-minded set of arguments about race and genetics. Ossario is the former director of the Genetics Section at the Institute for Ethics at the American Medical Association. The event is sponsored by the Ethics in Society Project.

  • The World Premiere of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange “Ferocious Beauty: Genome” will take place at 8 p.m. February 3 and 4 at the CFA’s theater. A pre-show talk begins at 7:15 p.m. February 3 in the Zilkha Gallery. Tickets cost between $8 and $19.

    “Ferocious Beauty: Genome” is about how we heal, age, procreate and eat may soon change because of genetic research happening right now. The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange partnered with scientists and bio-ethicists to confront the promise and threat of a new biological age. The show explores this moment of revelation and questioning in an arresting theatrical work which combines movement, music, text and film.

    The planning committee for this residency includes Professor of Biology and Fisk Professor of Natural Science Laura Grabel, Associate Professor of Philosophy Lori Gruen, Adjunct Professor of Dance Susan Lourie, Green Street Arts Center Director Ricardo Morris, Zilkha Gallery Curator Nina Felshin, CFA Associate Director for Programming and Events Barbara Ally and CFA Director Pamela Tatge.

    In addition, Lerman has consulted extensively with Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Laurel Appel, Professor of Biology Michael Weir and Professor of Chemistry and University Professor of Sciences and Mathematics David Beveridge, among others, on the development of Genome.

    Lerman will be making monthly visits to Grabel and Gruen’s Reproduction in the 21st Century course this fall, and is a fall faculty member of the Dance Department, teaching the repertory class.

    All events have been made possible by grants from Wesleyan University’s Edward W. Snowdon Fund, Hughes Program and the Fund for Innovation. “Ferocious Beauty: Genome” is funded in part by the Expeditions program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, which receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts with additional support from the state arts agencies of New England and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

    For more information or to order tickets, call 860-685-3355, or e-mail boxoffice@wesleyan.edu.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Professor Investigates the Trouble With Haiti

    Alex Dupuy, professor of sociology, is a native of Haiti and has traced the country’s turmoil back to its revolution.
    Posted 07/13/05
    It started out as one of the most inspiring stories in human history: slaves rebelled against their masters, fought a long, bloody revolution and took control of an oppressive nation. But since that auspicious beginning, the history of Haiti and its people has been fraught with turmoil and division. During the last few decades, Alex Dupuy, professor of sociology, has been searching for reasons why, and sharing his insight not just with his students but the world.
    Though now a U.S. citizen, Dupuy is a native of Haiti and has witnessed first hand the schisms in Haitian society. According to Dupuy, the roots can be traced all the way back to the revolution that ended in 1804 with the declaration of Haitian independence from France.
    “The revolution created tremendous animosity between the new state rulers and the wealthy elites, as well as divisions between both of them and the subordinate race and classes,” Dupuy says. “Even though the slaves rose up and liberated themselves, when they their leaders came to power they almost immediately created a predatory state structure.”
    Dupuy says the leaders of the rebellion who took control of the country also began taking the land of their former owners. But instead of dividing it up among the rest of the former slaves, they became plantation owners themselves, creating in their wake a landed peasantry. The government that was installed post-revolution quickly institutionalized these practices and seized land and other assets wherever and whenever it could.
    “The new owners rented out parts of the plantations to other former slaves in much the same way of share cropping occurred in The United States,” Dupuy says. “The workers leasing the land could never get ahead and remained the equivalent of peasants.”

    In addition, the wealthy elite who managed to weather the revolution began exploiting the new peasant class as if they were the old slave class. The equation became further charged by what Dupuy calls “color divisions.” The wealthy elite was heavily populated by mulattos and light-skinned blacks; the new political leaders were predominantly dark-skinned blacks. Animosity between the groups quickly grew. As a result, all the divisions became entrenched.

    Further exacerbating the situation, other countries did not step up to recognize the new nation. Given the importance of slavery to the colonial powers of Europe, it was in their political and economic interests to see a weakened Haiti. Much of Europe had no interest politically or economically in seeing Haiti succeed. The nascent government of The United States was balancing slave states with free within its own borders and was nervous to see a slave population rise up and create an independent nation.
    “It took until 1865, after the American Civil War, for The United States to finally formally recognize Haiti, even though the country was virtually in its own backyard,” Dupuy says.
    Despite the high ideals of its own revolution that preceded the Haitian revolution, France was no better. The French demanded reparations for lost assets from the new leaders of its former colony. The new post-revolutionary French governments continued with the demanded reparations for the lost assets from the former colony, and withheld formal recognition like a ransom until reparations were finally paid in 1843. By then Haiti, which before its revolution had been the wealthiest colony in the Caribbean generating more revenue than all the British West Indies colonies combined, was now among the poorest nations on earth.   During the 19th Century and into the 20th century, Haitian governments came and went rapidly, often bringing with them varying levels of oppression. In 1915, the situation became so violent and tenuous that The United States occupied the country.
    “This did bring about a certain level of stability,” Dupuy says. “However it did nothing to change any of the class or race color issues.”   The one big change that did come with the American occupation was the creation of a unified mordern army that led to the centralization of government, with the capital city of Port Au Prince becoming the seat of power. After the U.S. forces left in 1934, the new governments in Haiti were made and unmade by the strengthened Haitian military. However, in 1957, when the military permitted a movement toward democracy, Dr. Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier was elected to a six-year term as president on the promise of ending the mulatto elite’s hold on economic power. Soon after, Duvalier did open the country up to manufacturing, and bauxite mining, and coffee production, all under the auspices of multinational corporations. The economic elite stayed in place and Duvalier took generous kickbacks from everyone involved.   Duvalier also quickly marginalized the army, closed the military academy and created his own “Volunteers for National Security,” or Tontons Macoutes. The Tontons Macoutes quickly became a national secret police that terrorized the populace and maintained the old standards. Within a few years, Duvalier declared himself “president for life.”   The United States viewed “Papa Doc” Duvailier with a wary eye. There were even rumors that the CIA had tried to unseat him on two occassions. However, with the Cold War at its peak and Castro controlling Cuba, American Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon ultimately made decisions to tolerate Duvalier. After he died in 1971, his son Jean Claude took power at age 19. Though Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was reputed to be as ruthless and greedy as his father, the cold shoulder of the United States slowly thawed and by the early-1980s the U.S was openly providing aid and support to the Haitian government.    “U.S. support did not improve economic conditions in Haiti, however,” DuPuy says. “In fact, if anything workers in the export assembly industries producing for the U.S. market became even more exploited and Duvalier stole more money from the public treasury.”   Duvailier was deposed in 1986 and escaped to France where currently he lives off the hundreds of millions of dollars he took with him. He was ultimately replaced by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was elected on a reform platform that pledged the elimination of the Tontons Macoutes and the ways of Duvailer. But when Aristide ran up against the same class and race color issues that his predecessors faced, he soon resorted to the same practices as his predecessors.   Aristide was deposed in 1991 a mere seven months after he had taken office, returned to government and then deposed again February 2004 (though he says he was kidnapped, but it seems apparent he fled the country willingly in fear of his life). He was replaced by a U.S.-backed Interim Government, and since then Haiti has been cast into turmoil which has resulted in the arrival of U.N. and French troops who are trying to keep the peace.   “And here we are, with essentially the same problems that Haiti began with after the revolution,” Dupuy says.   Dupuy has brought clarity to the Haitian situation not just for his students but as a resource often-cited in such news outlets as The New York Times, The Washington Post, the BBC, and the News Hour with Jim Leher. As for solving the problems of the island Dupuy is not optimistic., but he says that the solution is not entirely difficult.
    “The problems of the country seem daunting and intractable, but unless they are solved democratically they will not be solved at all,” Dupuy says.   A leader has to emerge who can unify the conflicting factions of Haitian society,”  he says. “Be it the reach of the government, the exploitive practices of the elites, the deep-seeded inequalities, the presumptions on race – those are the issues that have to be resolved. Haiti has extensive resources. It has good people. It could be a jewel of the Caribbean. But the divisions and perceptions have gone on for so long, I am afraid it will not be easy.”   He sighs and shakes his head.   “Sometimes it seems the Haitian people are their own worst enemies.”

    By  David Pesci, director of media relations

    CASE Honors Wesleyan’s Fund-Raising Efforts

    Posted 07/13/05
    When it comes to fund-raising, Wesleyan is right on the money.

    The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) has awarded Wesleyan the CASE-Wealth ID Award for Educational Fund Raising: Overall Performance. Wesleyan competed in the Private Liberal Arts Institutions category.

    Wesleyan shared this distinction with eight other institutions, including Wellesley College and Williams College.

    “Wesleyan is already ranked highly for academic excellence, but now it demonstrates exemplary support of private education through its fund-raising performance,” says Mark Bailey, director of development communications.

    CASE, a nonprofit education association, supports educational institutions by enhancing the effectiveness of the alumni relations, communications and fund-raising professionals who serve it. In 2002, Wealth ID, a provider of wealth screening services and fund-raising solutions, joined CASE as a sponsor of the Educational Fund Raising Awards.

    Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president for University Relations, says Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees, President Doug Bennet, the alumni and parent volunteers, and the University Relations staff are vital members of Wesleyan’s fund-raising effort.

    “This development team represents a rare convergence of talent, skills, dedication, and energy,” Wilson says. “Like the Yankees in 1927 and 1998, you have to see them perform to fully appreciate how important they are to the institution.”

    This year, of the 970 eligible institutions, 274 college and universities were considered meritorious, and 46 were recognized for the CASE-Wealth ID Awards for Educational Fund Raising in 18 categories.

    The awards program recognizes Overall Performance and Overall Improvement in educational fund raising based on data submitted to the Council for Aid to Education’s “Voluntary Support of Education” survey.

    Judges analyzed three years of data in their review of institutions. They selected the winners based on a multitude of factors: the pattern of growth in total support; evaluation of what contributed to the total support figure; overall breadth in program areas; pattern of growth in each program area; pattern of donor growth among alumni donors and other individual donors; impact of the 12 largest gifts on total support; total support in relation to the alumni base; and the type of institution.

    Wilson says that the CASE Award also recognizes Wesleyan’s overall fund-raising performance and its record-setting $281 million Wesleyan Campaign. The funds will support financial aid, faculty, facilities and programs.

    “What is best about the CASE Award, I think, is the fact that this honor was awarded not for what Wesleyan received, but for what so many alumni, staff, and friends gave,” Wilson says. “The more we give, the more we receive. That’s the Wesleyan experience.”

    The judges also look for indications of a mature, well-maintained program.

    “Wesleyan’s fund-raising program has innovated and improved over several years,” Bailey says. “Today’s fund-raising program at Wesleyan is focused, client service oriented, and competes with the best programs in America and abroad. The CASE Award confirms Wesleyan’s growing leadership in this area.”

    Delegates from Wesleyan will receive the award during the CASE Annual Assembly July 16 in Miami Beach, Fla.

    Other winners in Category 5 include Bowdoin College in Maine; Colby College in Maine; Davidson College in North Carolina; Hope College in Michigan; Middlebury College in Vermont; and Washington and Lee University in Virginia.

    For the list of all winners, visit

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Polish National Swimming Team Trains at Wesleyan

    Posted 07/12/05   Updated 07.25.05
    Olympic Champion Otylia Jedrzejczak, who also holds the world record in the 200-meter butterfly (2:05.78), was one of 17 athletes on the Polish National Swimming Team who trained at Wesleyan July 15 through July 21. The Polish squad was preparing for the World Championships to be held in Montreal, Quebec from July 24-31.

    It is customary for international teams to do time-zone acclimation training, according to Brad Flood, head women’s swimming coach at the University of Bridgeport. Flood has been working with the Polish National team for more than a dozen years and recruited a number of their talented performers for both the University of Iowa and Central Connecticut State University.

    “Athletes usually need one day of training for each hour of time-zone difference and there is a six hour time difference between here and Poland,” Flood says.

    In addition to eight two-hour practice sessions in Wesleyan University’s Natatorium the Polish squad practiced at the Cheshire YMCA outdoor facilities, since the World Championships in Montreal will be held outdoors.

    While 2004 Olympic gold medalist Jedrzejczak, currently ranked first in the world in the 200 butterfly by FINA, is the headliner of the Polish squad, a number of other swimmers are among the world’s elite in their events. This includes Pawel Korzeniowski who is ranked among the top 10 men in the world in both the 200-meter butterfly (third) and the 400-meter freestyle (10th).

    The practice sessions at Wesleyan were open to the public.

    By Brian Katten, sports information director

    Library Assistant Develops Student Exhibition Cases in Olin’s Basement

    Cheryl-Ann Hagner, library assistant for Special Collections and Archives and coordinator of the Friends of the Wesleyan Library, sorts through a card catalog inside the archives.
    Posted 07/13/.05
    Q: How is your summer going so far here at Olin? Do you miss the students?

    A: Summer in the library is quiet. I miss the interaction with students and the energy they bring to campus, but it is nice to have time to catch up on projects that had to be put on hold during the busy semester.

    Q: How many years have you worked at Wesleyan?

    A: I’ve been at Wesleyan for four years.

    Q: What is your educational background, or what led you into working here?

    A: I have a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. Before I went to graduate school I taught high school English, did editorial work for several publishing companies, and owned a small bookstore. After graduate school I worked as a family therapist. Then I took some time off to be home with my newborn son. When I re-joined the work force, I looked for a position that would combine my interests in people and books. This position is a nice convergence.

    Q: What are your thoughts on Olin Library?

    : Olin Library is a beautiful and rich resource in the grand tradition of libraries. It is a significant part of Wesleyan and academic life. The demands of the evolving information age require that it change with the times and people here are working hard to do that.

    Q: What are some of your job duties?

    A: I split my time between the busy Special Collections office, supervising student workers and helping patrons, and developing the Friends of the Wesleyan Library organization. I am also responsible for the exhibition cases in the basement level of Olin Library.

    Q: I hadn’t realized there were displays in the basement.

    A: With the generous support of the library office for special lighting to highlight the exhibition cases, I developed this space for the display of student art not related to a class or grade.

    Q: What do the Friends of the Wesleyan Library do?

    A: Officially the mission of the Friends is to enhance, preserve and support the assets of the Wesleyan Library. We sponsor programs and events, fund the library newsletter, and raise money for special projects that are not covered by the library budget.

    Q: And you organize events for this?

    A: Yes. Last year I organized two events. One was a screening of the independent documentary film “Stone Reader” in the new Center for Film Studies followed by a question and answer session with the filmmaker and the author of the book who was the subject of the film, and a slide show and talk by Richard Gutman, author of “American Diners Then and Now.”

    Q: What can we look for this fall?

    A: We will be collaborating with Classical Studies to host a lecture by David Sider. We are also planning a book sale for the spring of 2006.

    Q: Do you have a personal interest in Wesleyan’s historical collections?

    A: I had not been exposed to artists’ books before I came to Wesleyan. Special Collections has a growing collection. Book artists and dealers from around the country visit us during the year to show us their work. I enjoy looking at the unique and beautiful ways artists communicate through these non-traditional books. I was recently so taken with a collection of haiku poems, letterpress printed on beautiful paper by Terri Tibbatts, that I bought a copy for myself. A special present.

    Q: Do you miss working in the mental health field?

    A: I did an internship with Lisa Currie, the director of WesWELL, so I could learn first hand the health issues many college students struggle with. Students I know well have talked to me about their issues and I offer support. I organized a collaboration between Special Collections and WesWELL called “The Body and The Book” during which Suzy Taraba displayed and talked about some of the artists’ books in our collection that deal with body image and mental and emotional distress.

    Q: What is your favorite book or type of reading material?

    A: I read a lot of contemporary fiction and non-fiction books, especially those by women writers.

    Q: What are some of your hobbies or interests?

    A: I enjoy ballroom dancing and dance weekly at a dance studio on the shoreline. I also dance at Wesleyan when ballroom dance class is offered at lunch time through the Freeman Athletic Center. The class is low key and fun, but we need more men in it to balance the lead and follow.

    Q: Where does your family live?

    A: I’ve lived in Guilford for 15 years with my husband Will, our son Skyler, and our poodle Marley.

    Q: I understand there’s something unique about your home.

    A: Our house was originally built as a chicken coop on a large farm. In the 1950s it was converted into a dog kennel; the previous owner raised Golden Retrievers there. We bought it in 1990 as a barely inhabitable dwelling and have completely renovated and added to it. We tried to maintain some of the integrity of the original chicken coop, though from the outside it no longer resembles one. 

    Q: What does the interior look like?

    A: On the inside, the chicken coop area is now the kitchen and dining rooms. They have the original low-pitched asymmetrical ceilings. It’s kind of funky and a little challenging for tall people. Our renovations have been with energy conservation in mind and last year we converted to a geo-thermal heating and cooling system. It’s a wonderful place to live.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

    WHAT WORKS, WHAT DOESN’T: Wesleyan’s Center for Community Partnerships hosted a Conference for Service-Learning titled “What Works and What Doesn’t” May 25-26. Staff members from Amherst, Bowdoin, Byrn Mawr, Connecticut College, Smith, Swarthmore, Trinity, University of Pennsylvania, Williams and Wesleyan convened to assess service-learning’s impact on students, administration and community partners.

    The event was arranged by Professor of Sociology and Director of the Service-Learning Center Rob Rosenthal, pictured back left. Also pictured are Scott Laidlaw, director of the Community Outreach Program at Amherst College; Sharon Friedler, professor of dance at Swarthmore College; and Sarah Barr, associate director of the Holleran Center of Community Action and Policy at Connecticut College. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett)

    Multicultural Upbringing Helps Director of Graduate Student Services Connect with Students

    Marina Melendez, ’83, MALS ’88, is the director of Graduate Student Services and the program’s biggest advocate.
    Posted 06/15/05

    Marina Melendez ‘83 was raised by a German-speaking mother and Spanish-speaking father in Five Towns, Long Island, N.Y. She didn’t speak a word of English until the age of 7.

    “After my first day of school, my mother said I came home and refused to speak any more German,” she says. “And from that day on, English would be the language in our home.”

    Melendez, however, never let go of her German and Puerto Rican roots. During her undergraduate years at Wesleyan, she majored in Spanish and minored in German. And to this day, the director of Graduate Student Services (GSS) uses her multicultural background and language skills to aid current Wesleyan graduate students.

    “The graduate students can feel comfortable with me, especially the international students, because I can relate to what they’re going through,” she says.

    Only 15 graduate students received their undergraduate degree from Wesleyan. About half of Wesleyan 200 graduate students come from nations other than The United States.

    Melendez became the director of GSS. Prior to that, she worked as a director of a job training program for welfare clients in New Britain, taught Spanish and history in Madison, Conn., and worked as a coordinator for the Community Action of Greater Middletown. During her college years at Wesleyan, Melendez supervised tutors and worked at the Adult Learning Center.

    Social work also is a vital part of Melendez’s job here at Wesleyan. But her foremost role is serving as the primary advocate for graduate students, most of whom are pursuing master’s and Ph.D degrees in the sciences or music.

    “So much of my work is to bring the Graduate Studies Program to the front of people’s minds,” she says. “They’re not a large group, but they’re here, and my job is to remind the Wesleyan community of their presence, and to improve the life and services for the students.”

    Melendez works with other offices on campus makes sure the students have comfortable housing, are offered transportation if necessary, register for classes correctly and feel safe.

    Latorya Hicks, a graduate student studying chemistry, says Melendez eased her transition from Lane College in Jackson, Tenn. to Wesleyan. At first, Hicks went to the director for questions pertaining to the bureaucracy of graduate school. This relationship has since flourished into a friendship.

     “Marina has truly been a great asset and was there to lend a listening ear when ever I needed to talk about the many trials of graduate school,” Hicks says. “I am eternally grateful to have met someone so dedicated, genuine, and concerned when it comes to the well-being of her graduate students.”

    Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, Melendez has devoted more of her time towards immigration procedures. She insures that students arrive with all their necessary documents and visas.

    “We have to keep their transition as smooth as possible so they can come here, settle in, and then focus on their career here,” she says. “These are students who want to be here. They are mature and are very appreciative about the education they are about to receive.”

    Melendez says students are attracted to Wesleyan’s graduate program for its one-on-one access to faculty, small departments and nationally-recognized research facilities.

    “If you want to get master’s or Ph.D in something general, there are several larger universities they can go to. But if you want to do specific research, this is where you want to be,” she says.

    Melendez networks with Wesleyan’s staff and faculty to improve student services. She’s served on the Honor Code Task Force, Student Life Committee, Student of Color Perspectives and Action Committee (SOCPAC), the Executive Committee for the Administrators and Faculty of Color (AFCA) and Graduate Housing Committee. 

    Dianna Dozier, associate director of Affirmative Action co-chaired AFCA with Melendez for several years.

    “Marina is so wonderful to work with,” Dozier says. “ She is smart, funny, and cares so much about all students at Wesleyan, not just the grad students or students of color. The grad students are indeed lucky to have her looking out for them. Her efforts on behalf of all students are tireless.”

    Although the individual departments oversee applications and admit the graduate students, Melendez and her assistant, Barbara Schukoske act as the registrar for these students. They also update student portfolios, make sure grades are posted, answer any questions students might have, either through e-mail, phone or in-person, and monitor a graduate student e-mail list serve and assist them through commencement procedures.

    In addition, Melendez started and annually spearheads a graduate student orientation day in fall “to get all practical matters out of the way,” she says. “We want to acclimate students as quickly as possible.”

    Michael Whaley, dean of Student Services, says he often collaborates with Melendez to better understand the needs and issues of students of color, and improve the campus community for all students. They discuss graduate and undergraduate issues alike.

    “I appreciate her collaborative spirit and respect the passion and dedication she brings to working with the graduate student population,” Whaley says. “Her love for Wesleyan and commitment to making this a better community for the students extend beyond her own specific duties and responsibilities. I value her opinions.”

    Melendez monitors the success of her department by the number of inquiring students.

    “In the fall, students are still confused and they come in with all sorts of questions and problems,” she says. “By spring, we don’t see them too much, and that tells us that we’ve done a good job. That means they’ve adjusted.”

    Melendez has continued her own education as well. She earned a MALS degree from Wesleyan in 1988, and is currently pursuing her Ph.D in educational studies at the University of Connecticut 

    Melendez met her partner, Joseph Virgadula ‘80 at Wesleyan. The couple has two boys, Louis, 15, and Tomas, 13, and live in Middlefield. When she’s not attending their baseball, soccer and Lacrosse games, mother Marina is busy cooking or gardening.

    This busy lifestyle has taught Melendez a life-lesson that she would like to pass on.

    “If I ever do end up teaching, it will have to be a class on time management. I’ve gotten very good at it,” she says, smiling.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Hughes Fellows Test-Drive the Life of a Research Scientist

    Summer Hughes Fellows Maiko Kondo ’07 (top) and Brandon Stein ’07 (left) work on their research projects in Wesleyan labs. Hughes Fellows have 10 weeks to finish a research project of their choice. Faculty members provide guidance and instruction.
    Posted 06/15/05

    In Wesleyan’s Mukerji Lab, Maiko Kondo ’07 studies peptides modeled after those found in Alzheimer’s plaques. Nearby in the Flory Lab, Brandon Stein ’07 examines nuclear functions of telomere-associated proteins.

    As Wesleyan University Summer Hughes Fellows, Kondo and Stein have 10 weeks to complete their research, work one-on-one with a faculty advisor and participate in a variety of Hughes activities. They’re among 49 students who received grants from the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

    Michael Weir, professor of biology and chair of the Biology Department is the director of the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences. Laurel Appel, visiting associate professor of biology and senior research associate is the program coordinator.

    Weir says the Hughes Fellows can test-drive being a research scientist in one of the Wesleyan research groups. This experience, however, comes with the successes and disappointments of exploring a new field of science.

    “When you come in to the lab in the morning, you don’t really know what you are going to find out by the end of the day or week — that’s the excitement, and sometimes frustration, of doing full-time research,” Weir says.

    The annual summer program is in its 17th year at Wesleyan and immerses undergraduates in a research topic that fascinates them without the time constraints and workload inherent to a full load of classes normally taken during the academic semesters.

    Thirty-three faculty members are on hand to help guide the students’ research. This year, students are studying topics as diverse as “Serotonin and its Effect on Dentate Gyrus Neurogenesis,” “Patterns in hiring practices for tenure-track positions in the geosciences,” and “Investigating the Beginnings of Chimpanzee Research in the United States,” among several others.

    “Research training during the Hughes Summer Program allows undergraduates a valuable opportunity to make serious strides of progress on a project, to have a positive experience doing full-time research, and to possibly solidify a desire to pursue a career in the experimental sciences,” says Stein’s summer advisor and Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Mark Flory.

    Kondo decided to pursue a degree in molecular biology and biochemistry after suffering from allergies her entire life. Ultimately, she wants to know why this is, and how people can be cured.

    “As I studied further in this field, I started to hope that I would be able to conduct research, exploring the relations between allergy and the immune system in my future,” she says. “The summer research program gives me a good opportunity to learn about research techniques, which are needed to approach my goal.”

    In addition to research, the Hughes Summer Program includes a special day-long workshop for all interested students, faculty, and staff on an emerging topic in the Life Sciences. This year, the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange presents, “Breaking Boundaries: Scientists and Dancers, Investigations and Choreograph.”

    The summer program also includes a seminar series given by outside speakers who design their talks for the undergraduate audience of varying scientific backgrounds and fields. This year’s speakers include Margaret Livingstone of Harvard Medical School; Anna Martini of Amherst College; Mikhail Levin of the University of Connecticut Health Center; Katrina Catron of Boehringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals; Remus Th. Dame of Vrije Universiteit; and Monica Carson of the University of California.

    Although the research is intense, the program allows ample socialization time. Two picnics, a student-run movie series, softball league, field trips, access to the Freeman Athletic Center and drop-in lunches are offered for participants.

    Students applying for the 2006 Hughes Program must do so by March 3, 2006. The grant budget allows for 18 stipends, but with generous contributions from participating departments and faculty, as well as Financial Aid funds, the program can accept between 40 and 50 students each year. Students are responsible for their own housing.

    The program concludes August 5 with a poster session.

    For more information contact Maureen Snow, administrative assistant for the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences, at msnow@wesleyan.edu.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    South College Renovation, Bell Addition Begins in July

    In July, South College will receive eight new bells. Scaffolding will surround parts of the building, as crews install the bells and remodel the belfry. Sections of the white panels will be removed, however the copper-top will stay in tact. 
    Posted 06/15/05

    The South College belfry will receive eight new bells and a facelift during the next several months.

    This renovation will add eight new bells to the current 16-bell array. This will upgrade the status of the Wesleyan bells from a chime (10-22 bells) to that of a carillon (23 or more).

    “Now we’ll have more notes, so we can play more songs, and more complicated songs,” said six-year chimemaster Peter Frenzel, professor emeritus of German studies. “We’re moving out of the minor league of bell playing and into the major league.”

    Staff from Physical Plant will replace the roof within the bell tower prior to the bell addition. Staff will paint and restore the exterior railings, louvers and wood portions of the tower. Painting of the interior stairwell will also occur.

    Construction will begin in mid-July and conclude in September. The bell’s keyboard has already been temporarily dismantled.

    The actual work to the bells is expected to take six weeks. The new bells will be cast by Petit & Fritsen, the Royal Dutch Bell Foundry in The Netherlands, and then shipped to Cincinnati via New Orleans and the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. They’ll later be completed and fine-tuned and installed by the Verdin Bell Company of Cincinnati, Ohio.

    Peter Staye, associate director of Physical Plant’s Academic and Administrative is coordinating the exterior renovation. The new bells, he says, will be hoisted up by crane and installed through back panels in the belfry.

    The copper-top dome of South College will not be removed or altered.

    Eagle Rivet Roofing Services of West Hartford will erect all scaffolding around all four sides of the bell tower. The scaffolding will remain in place until the carillon is complete.

    Acquiring a carillon for the university has been in the planning stages since 1999. The new bells, which will greatly expand the music being played, were all donated by Wesleyan friends, alumni and parents.

    During construction, all entrances, exits and stairways in South College will be open.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Anthropology Professor’s Exhibit on Display in International Museum

    This photograph of a West Bengal wedding altar by Ákos Östör, professor of anthropology and film studies, and Lina Fruzzetti of Brown University, is on display in The Museum of Cultures in Helsinki, Finland. It is part of an exhibit titled “Divine Gifts: Marriage and ritual in rural West Bengal.”
    Posted 06/15/05

    In India, marriage carries great social and cultural meanings. It ensures the continuity of the male line and it is vital to the maintenance of caste status.

    Ákos Östör, professor of anthropology and professor of film studies, has spent the past three years traveling to Bishnupur, West Bengal researching marriage rituals. His results – documented with photographs and objects – is currently featured in The Museum of Cultures in Helsinki, Finland.

    It’s titled “Divine Gifts: Marriage and Ritual in Rural West Bengal.”

    “Divine Gifts” is funded by a three-year grant from the Finnish Academy of Social Sciences and is supported by the University of Helsinki.

    “I first went to Bishnupur in 1967, and I wanted to go back to see the changes that took place over this 40-year period,” Östör says. “I’m interested in how the festivals, temples and rituals are changing, and the bazaar’s economic system.”

    Östör was part of a three-member research team. His wife, Lina Fruzzetti, professor of anthropology at Brown University and Sirpa Tenhunen, research fellow of social and cultural anthropology at University of Helsinki, also contributed to the show.

    The exhibition features several pieces from Östör and Fruzzetti’s personal collections of more than 40 years. It includes a crown of the bridegroom, a conch-shell ritual trumpet, a golden cotton shawl used by the priest in weddings, a wedding ceremony bell, pitcher and oil lamp and a kerosene lantern manufactured from recycled materials.

    These are all common parts of a Bengali marriage, known as a biye. The biye also consists of two major elements: the payment of the dowry and the gift of a virgin.

    “The gift of a virgin is a ritual of sacred connotation, when the father gives his daughter to another kin group as a divine gift,” Östör says.

    In addition, the exhibition represents kitchen and household utensils relating to women’s every-day life; home altars, deities and ritual objects used in daily worship; and Bankura terracotta horses and elephants given as votive gifts to the snake goddess Manasha.

    On Sundays, four documentary films by Fruzzetti and Östör are open as part of the showing. Each film reveals the everyday life in rural West Bengal and of devotion to the goddess Manasha and the gods Krishna and Shiva.

    Östör has also put his research into two books, each published by DC Publishers in 2004. He’s the author of “Calcutta Conversations” and “The Play of the Gods: Locality, Ideology, Structure, and Time in the Festivals of a Bengali Town,” an expanded edition of his older work.

    “Divine Gifts” will close in October.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Director of Academic Computing Services and Digital Projects Partners with Faculty to Implement Technology in Teaching

    Michael Roy, director of Academic Computing Services and Digital Projects, works on a project inside the Science Tower Lab.
    Posted 06/15/05

    Q: Mike, you’re director of Academic Computing Services and director of Digital Projects. What is your personal interest with technology?

    A: My personal interest in technology comes from being curious about how technology can solve problems, about how it can improve our ability to understand the world, and how it can allow us to communicate that understanding in new and effective ways.

    Q: When did you come to Wesleyan?

    A: I came here in 1996 as the Humanities Computing Coordinator. A year later, I became Director of Academic Computing Services for Information Technology Services.  Last year, I added to my ITS job responsibilities in the Library as director of digital library projects.

    Q: Where are your degrees from and in what?

    A: I have a B.A. in philosophy from Dartmouth College and a M.A. from Duke in English.

    Q: How did this lead you into working in information technology?

    A:  After graduate school, I started working at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research on a large-scale publishing project, creating microfiche edition of literary materials from African-American periodicals from the late 19th and early 20th century. In order to manage this process, I had to learn a wide range of technologies that we were using to make the project more efficient. The Institute became increasingly interested in how emerging technologies – at the time, CD-ROMs and primitive multimedia programs – might serve as a platform for documenting and making available African American resources, and so allowed me to learn these new technologies as a form of research for the Institute. I had learned some computer programming in high school, and so this was an excellent chance to return to an area of interest that I had ignored during my college and graduate education.

    Q: In Academic Computing Services, you provide Wesleyan faculty with resources to help them incorporate technology into their teaching and research. How would you describe what you do?

    A: Academic Computing Services consists of three major groups: The first group is the Academic Computing Managers, who work directly with faculty and at times with students to use technology resources for in their teaching and research. The second group is Instructional Media Services, which focuses on classroom technology, the public computer labs, support for special events, and most recently, the WebTech program. The third group is the Learning Object Development Group, which is a grant-funded initiative that provides professional design and programming resources for faculty projects. My work mainly focuses on trying to make sure that these three groups work well together, have the resources that they need, and receive the support they need from the rest of ITS.  I also spend a fair amount of time working on collaborative projects with the Faculty Career Development Center with Andy Szegedy-Maszak on the Academic (Technology) Roundtable and our Teaching Matters booklet.

    Q: What is your role as director of Digital Projects?

    A: The work I do in the library on digital projects focuses on identifying ways that ITS resources can be brought to bear on library initiatives, and in identifying opportunities where ITS and the Library can work together on projects that will improve the campus computing and information environment. Examples include work on a new facility that will open in the fall in Olin library, work on Information Literacy, which is one of Wesleyan’s new key capabilities, and work on building a catalog of departmental resources — books, videos, etc. — that can be viewed via the library Web site.

    Q: What are a couple examples of ways faculty members are using these services?

    A: More and more faculty are using technology in some aspect of their teaching and research. Part of that is because of our investment in putting technology into the classroom. Part of that is because of changes in the way that academics do their work that are happening on a national scale. Most faculty are very pragmatic about how they incorporate technology. They rightfully don’t want to invest too much time in learning something new if they can’t see an obvious benefit to that new thing. That said, there are many examples of Wesleyan faculty who are doing new things in their classrooms and in their research:

    • In the Economics Department, Tanya Rosenblat and Alberto Isgut have developed a very interesting game called the Ricardian Explorer that they use to teach their students about comparative advantage and international trade.
    • David Schorr in the Art Department teaches typography and design in our interactive computer classrooms.
    • Pete Pringle in chemistry uses Web-based multiple choice questions to help his students review the material he has presented in class.
    • Barry Chernoff in the Earth & Environmental Sciences Department uses nearly every gizmo in SC150 to enliven his large lecture classes with the use of rich media that he draws upon from a wide range of sources and in a wide range of formats.
    • Madgalena Teter is developing a rich resource for a working group that she is part of that is studying early modern Jewish history, using the Web to provide access to primary source materials, translations and commentary on those resources, and video of discussions.
    • Cecilia Miller is creating with Alan Nathanson a rich set of annotated links to materials for her students in her Intellectual History courses to use.

    One of the most interesting things about all of this is that the way we have set up our environment here. There are no doubt dozens and dozens examples of effective and innovative uses of technology that we don’t know about because of the fact that we provide technology that faculty can use without needing to necessarily ask for help.

    Q: In some respect, are you teaching faculty?

    A: I don’t think of our work as teaching faculty, but rather as a partnership where we work together to think about how various technologies might be put to appropriate use, and as importantly, which technologies should we not be pursuing. I don’t spend as much time as I would like working directly with the faculty, but do spend a fair amount of time in conversation about projects and initiatives.

    Q: Are you a member of the Academic Technology Advisory Committee? What topics would be addressed at meetings?

    A: I am a member of ATAC. We meet two or three times per semester. ATAC serves as a sounding board for us, providing us an opportunity to have conversations with faculty and other key constituents about our planning, and to evaluate our existing services. We spend time talking about our course management system called Blackboard, the classrooms and labs, software licensing and our wireless strategy.

    Q: Are you a member of other professional organizations?

    A: I participate in meetings of Nercomp, Educause, New Media Consortium, and MANE IT Network.  A group of us are also just about to launch a new project called Academic Commons, which will serve as a place for faculty, librarians, technologists, and other academic professionals to discuss the role of technology in liberal education.

    Q: I understand you were an English instructor at Duke and a writer for the Dictionary of Global Culture in the early 90s. Are you still a writer?

    A: Yes. Last fall I published a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “The Open-Source Bazaar Makes Scholarship Available.” For the Academic Commons project, I am serving as the interviews editor, and so will be spending time interviewing people about their views on technology and liberal arts education. 

    Q: You’re obviously very well-rounded. Why is this important to you and are you glad to be working at a liberal-arts college?

    A: I like working at a liberal-arts college because it allows me to spend time working on a wide-range of topics, and to spend time with people who think hard about interesting things. I also believe that this kind of education is important, and so like to be able to play a small role in the way liberal arts education is transforming itself in the face of the challenges that this forms of education faces, from technology, but also from myriad other forces.

    Q: What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of work?

    A: I like to go running with my new puppy, play guitar not very well, and I coach soccer.

    Q: Do you have family or pets?

    A: My wife Lisa and I have three kids, Ethan, 12, Anna, 9 and Julian, 3. We have two cats, a puppy and a lizard.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor